Rahul Gandhi Falls Into Familiar Pattern With His Lok Sabha Antics
What can one make of Rahul Gandhi’s hug and wink in Lok Sabha during the no-confidence motion debate?
We revisit the past to see a recurring theme in all of Gandhi’s antics over the years.
We are living in times where serious political analysis has been replaced by cheesy clickbait headlines. There is little care for substance; instead, the news media settles for the superficial, which appeals to the lowest common denominator of consumers. The no confidence motion yesterday (20 July) saw many parliamentarians speak both for and against the government. Instead of covering the content, as well as running a fact-check and doing the analysis, the mainstream media reduced it all to Rahul Gandhi’s hug.
To his supporters in the Indian National Congress and the media, this was a gracious Rahul Gandhi who opposed the Prime Minister in principle but held him in the highest regard as an individual. They said this was a throwback to old-school politics, where it was never personal. Some ardent admirers of Gandhi even called it the hope of love in the climate of hate and light in this darkness.
After his hug with the Prime Minister, before which he had motioned Modi to stand up for that purpose, Gandhi proceeded to wink at his colleague. To his opponents, this was proof that the hug was insincere and that he was actually mocking the Prime Minister and the Lok Sabha with this amateurish stunt.
Are the opponents being fair? His wink could just have been an amiable but anodyne gesture of camaraderie directed at a fellow party member for what he thought was an accomplishment.
So, then, are Gandhi’s opponents reading too much into his innocuous action? It is impossible to judge an individual by such a brief act, but we can go back in time to analyse how Gandhi has conducted himself on other occasions throughout his political career to extract an understanding.
On 15 February 2012, Gandhi accused the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party at an election rally of making “only promises”. He had then proceeded to tear a piece of paper to assert that “mere lists” of assurances were of no use. Months later, the Congress suffered a humiliating defeat in Uttar Pradesh.
In 27 September 2013, Gandhi interrupted a press conference of senior Congress leaders about an ordinance to save criminally convicted legislators from disqualification. Gandhi slammed the ordinance as ‘complete nonsense’, and proceeded to tear the ordinance. This was seen by many as an insult to party leadership at the press conference, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), and then prime minister Manmohan Singh.
Gandhi’s first interview on national television in the run-up to the 2014 general election had him stumped by the simplest of questions from journalist Arnab Goswami. It all soon descended into an utterly discombobulated Gandhi unknowingly (but rightly) implicating his party for the 1984 Sikh pogrom.
After suffering a humiliating electoral defeat in May 2014, Gandhi was seen smirking and winking while Sonia Gandhi laboured through her concession speech. This amateurish display was not only rude to the speaker but also showed a total lack of awareness of the ignominy of the Congress’ defeat.
On 9 July 2017, Gandhi was caught nodding off to sleep on camera in Lok Sabha amid the heated debate between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition about thrashing of Dalit youth in Gujarat's Una.
On 12 September 2017, at a forum in Berkeley University that was supposed to be the Congress launching their campaign for 2019, Gandhi clumsily attempted to defend dynastic politics by claiming that that was how India worked.
Yesterday (20 July 2018), during his speech in favour of the the no-confidence motion, Gandhi went on to make a series of unproven accusations against the BJP. He claimed that women are not safe in BJP-ruled India. He ended with a vicious tirade against the Prime Minister and the BJP. The spectacle ended in the now-famous hug and wink. All this was in violation of parliamentary law.
There are two recurring themes in the cited instances of Rahul Gandhi’s public display of over half a decade. The first is a contempt for decorum, a lack of respect for senior colleagues across parties, and a disregard for long-standing rules. The second is his unwillingness to be armed with the fundamentals of the subject matter under discussion, irrespective of the importance and consequence of the forum.
The reason for this is that irrespective of the incompetence, petulance, and sloth, Gandhi has found senior members of the Congress not only defending him but lauding him to the hilt and issuing blustering denials of any errors on the part of their supreme leader. When the Congress and their allies in media find it impossible to defend him, they always try to portray Gandhi as a well-meaning and almost naively moral young man who just isn’t meant for the devious political skulduggery that his opponents employ.
Being born in privilege brings with it a level of entitlement, but his innumerable sycophants in his party and media have caused an element of brattishness to the feeling of privilege. In his mind, things like adherence to rules, preparing for an interview, and striving for perfection are beyond ‘royalty’ such as him.
Gandhi’s many incoherent oratorical utterances have made him an object of ridicule, but it has also helped him greatly, albeit unintentionally. The perception of being a clown is infinitely better that that of an arrogant, entitled brat. He will never be the recipient of contempt, but instead there is playful ridicule. We have seen the likes of Idi Amin and Lalu Prasad Yadav employ humour as a distraction tool from their crimes.
Gandhi’s behaviour is quite reminiscent of a privileged industrialist’s son who makes no attempts to improve himself because he knows he will soon take over the business irrespective of his ineptitude. While the Congress may have been run like a dynastic private enterprise, the country, despite his erroneous perception, is emphatically not his province to inherit. The series of humiliating defeats Gandhi has suffered whenever he led his party campaign proves that the citizens of this great nation are not asleep and are, in fact, no longer willing to hand over the reigns of their country to an individual merely based on their last name.
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